Volvo V90 Cross Country First Drive Review

2 months ago | Santosh Nair

What is it?

Why will I buy the Volvo V90 Cross Country

For basic off-road capabilities with all-wheel drive, lots of safety features and the practicality of a spacious boot.

Why will I avoid the Volvo V90 Cross Country

For lack of rear seat thigh support. The station-wagon body style is not popular with Indian consumers.

Just like Volvo has the Cross Country versions of its V40 and S60 models, the company now plans to bring in the Cross Country iteration of the S90 to India. In that regard, since Volvo only has the V90 Cross Country in its portfolio, which is essentially the station-wagon version of S90 with the Cross Country treatment, the brand has decided to launch it in India on 14 July.

From the front, the V90 Cross Country’s grille comprises of vertical black bars with tiny chrome squares instead of the chrome bars seen on the S90. Even the lower front bumper is a lot more angular and incorporates silver accents for a more rugged appeal. In profile, it shows off some cladding, the dark 20-inch wheels with 210mm ground clearance (S90=152mm) and the most prominent feature - the station-wagon rear. Now, the wagon body-style may not be popular in India, but we felt that the raised ground clearance, rugged look and Volvo signature tail lamps coupled with an appropriately raked rear windshield and spoiler make for a stance that’s easy on the eye.

We drove the Volvo V90 Cross Country from Mangalore to Coorg and here are our impressions. 

 

How is it on the inside?

The V90’s interior (like the S90) is a breath of fresh air especially when compared to the rivals. Unlike the S90 with its light beige leather and walnut trim, the V90 Cross Country can be had in either amber, maroon brown or charcoal-coloured leather with mesh aluminium trim. Everything remains top-class, which means you get impressive build quality, lots of soft-touch points, the unique vertical air-con slats with adjustments, and that large tablet-like infotainment system that is quite responsive. However, accessing functions like the air-con controls requires you to toggle between screens and that can get quite complicated. This tends to also get the driver’s eyes off the road at times.

Volvo has always trusted orthopedic surgeons with the design of their seats, and the V90 is no different. At the front, the superb contours are extremely comfortable, along with top-class cushioning and massage functions. These cooled front seats also offer electric adjustments for lumbar, lateral and thigh support for a tailor-made seat experience. Rear seat occupants will enjoy the well-shaped bench, with more headroom than the S90 due to the wagon´s higher roofline, a panorama sunroof, and ample knee-room. However, the small seat squab translates into less thigh support.

While the rear seat is appropriate for two, the only way a middle passenger can be seated is if they can deal with a protruding arm rest and a tall transmission tunnel. The station-wagon design may not be popular in our market but customers will certainly appreciate that this body-style has liberated an additional 60-litres over the S90’s 500-litres of boot space. Furthermore, we noticed that an 18-inch space-saver spare wheel is placed neatly below the boot space.  

For the record, Volvo’s V90 Cross Country will get features like four-zone climate control, cooled and heated front seats, panoramic sunroof, and woven aluminium trim with a choice of leather in three colours. There’s also an electric tailgate, a brilliant Bowers and Wilkins music system with subwoofer, roof rails, 20-inch black diamond-cut alloys with Pirellis, and the long list of safety features expected of a Volvo car. Things like lane keeping aid, pilot assist, hill-start assist, heads-up display, LED head lamps, and collision mitigation support.

How does it drive?

The V90 Cross Country gets the 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel motor that powers the XC90 in India. It makes 235bhp and 480Nm of torque (higher than S90’s 190bhp/400Nm), and uses an eight-speed automatic transmission to lay down all that power through an all-wheel drive system. Once cranked, there’s a fair bit of diesel clatter heard outside the car, but good cabin insulation prevents it from filtering into the cabin.

Off the mark, this motor picks up pace in an unhurried linear fashion and there’s a mild surge post 1500rpm which can be felt all the way to about 4300rpm. The torque spread is quite flat, and the eight-speed automatic transmission uses the pulling power generated by the motor in an efficient manner. Aiding the driving capabilities of the V90 Cross Country are four modes: Eco, Comfort, Off-road and Dynamic.

Eco mode is meant for the best possible efficiency where upshifts are carried out quickly, and it also allows the motor to coast. Needless to say, responses from the motor are quicker in Comfort mode which makes for a little easy driving. But it is the Dynamic mode which is ideal for spirited driving experiences since more torque is sent to the rear wheels, and the transmission clings on to a lower gear for better response. However, we noticed that the downshifts are noticeably slower than the upshifts, which at times makes the power output jerky, especially when making a quick overtake. 

Slotting into Off-road mode can be done till speeds of up to 40kmph, and it automatically activates the hill-descent control, hill-start assist, and also directs more torque to the rear wheels. There is no additional lift and the ride height is fixed. We didn’t go serious mud-plugging in the V90, but the all-wheel drive combined along with the altered electronics, plus the superior ground clearance aids the V90 to cross some rugged and slushy trails that you wouldn’t usually dare in a regular sedan. You do have to be careful though, considering that the V90 has low profile tyres and damaging the wheels could be an expensive affair.

The V90 uses a double wishbone front while the rear is suspended via air-springs like in the S90. Unlike in most cars, changing the driving modes also changes the damping characteristics. In Eco and Comfort mode, the ride is comfy at low speeds but as speeds rise, it tends to wallow a bit. When the road gets worse, you can hear the suspension working in the background, and the harsh bumps result in a thud filtering into the cabin without severe body movement. This is where the Dynamic mode comes handy and is the preferred setting for higher speeds as it offers a flatter ride.

With the V90 slotted in Eco or Comfort mode, the steering feels light and this eases the driving capabilities in the city. That said, Dynamic mode is better suited for sporty driving, especially around bends, since the steering feels heavier. Despite the fact that the V90 rolls a bit, grip levels are really good thanks to the all-wheel drive and the wide Pirelli tyres. We also felt that the brakes on the V90 are progressive with just the right amount of feedback.

Why should I buy one?

Volvo is expected to introduce the V90 Cross Country at a price tag that could range from Rs 65-70 lakh. For the extra money over the S90, you will primarily get the bigger wheels, higher ground clearance and cladding, off-road ability with related functions, all-wheel drive capability, a wagon body with the added boot space, and a more powerful motor. Then there’s the great build quality which elevates the feel-good factor, and it definitely feels like it can withstand our roads too. Since it’s a Volvo, a plethora of safety equipment is a given. 

The biggest downfall to the V90 Cross Country is the station wagon package that our market is yet to warm up to, despite the affinity towards large boot spaces. Nevertheless, if you were looking at a comfortable and safe sedan that doubles up in swallowing your extra luggage while also offering basic off-roading capabilities, then we think V90 Cross Country fits the bill quite well.

Where does it fit in?

As of now, Volvo’s V90 Cross Country is a niche in its category, and the only vehicle in its segment. But for that kind of money, you could pick up a Mercedes-Benz E350d or the BMW 530d M Sport in the sedan body-style, or opt for SUVs like the BMW X5 30d, Jaguar F-Pace or the Mercedes-Benz GLE.  

 

Pictures by Ninad Ambre and Volvo

Volvo to launch V90 Cross Country in India on 12 July

Volvo V90 Cross Country